The Olympic Rabbi

From Haaretz:

There is one man at the Beijing Olympic village who is not officially classified as an athlete, but runs as many kilometers as the competitors. He too began preparing for the Olympics many years ago and he too has put forth a lot of effort. He’s running a "relay race" which he has not yet completed. "It was more than worth it," the man who was appointed "Beijing’s Olympic rabbi" told Haaretz on Monday.

Rabbi Shimon Freundlich could be worthy of a gold medal considering the trials and tribulations the Chabad representative faced before he was officially appointed and allowed to operate a synagogue within the Olympic village.

China is a secular communist county that recognizes five religions (Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Hinduism.) "The Chinese knew that according to Olympics bylaws they are required to provide a synagogue and kosher food, and they knew there would be a rabbi, but since Judaism is not one of the religions recognized by the Chinese, they didn’t really know how to operate," Freundlich said.
"Only after I made it clear to them that I understood my appointment was not an official government appointment did the Chinese agree to meet with me," he added.

After much goading, the Chinese ultimately offered their assistance. They provided security around the Chabad house and the Chinese religions minister made an exception to the country’s laws and allowed Chabad to bring prayer books into China.

When it came to the food, things were a little more difficult. The athletes were given vegetarian airplane meals prepared in accordance with Muslim dietary laws.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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